Edgar Spinney Archibald

Edgar Spinney Archibald

MAY 12, 1885 - JANUARY 23, 1968

Edgar Spinney Archibald was a distinguished agricultural scientist who headed several key organizations, most notably serving as the Director of Dominion Experimental Farms. His dynamic leadership not only guided Canadian agriculture through the turbulent times of the Depression and the Second World War, but ensured it would flourish. His expertise in applying scientific concepts to improving agricultural methods gained him widespread recognition throughout Canada.

Archibald was born on May 12, 1885, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He attended the Ontario Agricultural College, graduating in 1908 with a BSA. Following his graduation, he engaged in a career that saw him rise through a series of promotions. He served as a lecturer at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College from 1908 to 1912 before becoming Dominion Animal Husbandman from 1912 to 1919. His most important appointment, however, came in 1919, when he was made Director of the Dominion Experimental Farms, a position he held until 1950. During this time he would help seguey agriculture into a more industrial and scientific era, supporting producers, processors, manufacturers, and particularly scientists. Additionally, Archibald served as the head of the Tobacco Enquiry Committee in 1928 and the program committee for the World Grain Exhibition Conference in 1933.

Under his guidance, scientific experimental stations throughout Canada were expanded and developed: their number increased from sixteen to fiftythree during his tenure, and the stations produced more agricultural research than ever before. He placed a specific emphasis on the need for purebred herds, leading to the establishment of many of these in Western Canada, providing farmers with high-quality livestock. Additionally, he paved the way for the development of the chemurgy movement. His scientists, in cooperation with the National Research Council, developed commercially viable commodities out of farm products and by-products, notably antibiotics from soil microorganisms and fuel from excess wheat straw.

During the Second World War, he was an ardent advocate for the need to guard against a repetition of the mistakes that were made during the first World War-overcropping, neglecting of soil, failure to keep up with rising livestock demands- which caused an agricultural disaster. He advocated for quality production at a lower cost and discouraged a wartime boom in crops that had no place in peacetime rotations.

Archibald was instrumental in the creation of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, which was formalized through an act of parliament passed in 1935. The Administration was meant to combat a serious drought that was ravaging the Prairies in the 1930s, which was causing a mass exodus of farmers from the region. The Administration provided the outline for emergency relief that would combat soil erosion and manage water resources. This would involve seeding abandoned lands, creating community pastures, and extensive tree-planting projects. This program almost singlehandedly saved the Prairies from the imminent disaster they were facing.

Furthermore, Archibald’s work was not just limited to Canada; he also traveled around the globe to attend conferences on international agricultural development. He served as the Senior Food and Agricultural Organization Officer for the United Nations from 1951 to 1952, and from 1954 to 1955 he helped the developing nation of Ethiopia catch up with modern and more efficient farming practices and technology, eventually becoming the Agricultural Advisor to the Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture.

In recognition of his numerous contributions, Archibald earned three honorary degrees and numerous honorary titles, including Companion of the Order of Canada and Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Archibald’s unique vision and scientific ingenuity were huge boons to rural Canada, something that was proven time and time again throughout his sparkling career.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture